Food! And a new Recipe

So, as I said before, I’m changing my diet again to be gluten free.  As the elimination of soy, gluten, meat and dairy from my diet leaves not a heck of a lot I can eat,  I’m relaxing my standards a bit, out of necessity.  Gluten and soy seem to be major problems in thyroid disease, so those are non-negotiable.  Eliminating dairy has helped me loose a lot of weight and my digestive system seems better, so dairy goes to the “very rare cheat” list.  Which leaves meat as the most flexible “cheat” area.  So last night we had hot dogs and potato salad, and I must say, boy, did they taste GOOD!

That said, I still want to stay mostly with a plant based diet.  So protein sources are mostly beans and quinoa.  Yesterday I came up with a salad  that’s high in protein, cool for those hot days, and actually yummy!

Jicama Quinoa Salad

  •  1 cup Quinoa
  • 2 tbl sesame oil
  • 1 cup grated Jicama
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can mandarin oranges
  • ½ lemon, Juiced
  • ½ c Peas ( use frozen peas, thawed)
  • ¼ c dried cranberries

 Soak quinoa in water to cover for 15 minutes.  Simmer on low, covered, in enough water to cover about 30 minutes. Drain, and allow to cool.

 Open can of mandarin oranges and drain, reserving about half of juice.  Fold into quinoa. Add Jicama, onion, peas, cranberries, sesame oil, and toss lightly.  Season to taste.

 I served on a bed of raw spinach.  I flirted with the idea of making rolls with the spinach leaves, but I was too hungry!

 This recipe lends itself well to experimentation and substitution. I plan to try cooking the quinoa in broth rather than water, trying with other fresh fruits (sliced strawberries, blueberries perhaps) keeping with the savory/sweet theme.

Remember to read those labels!

I have been craving cheese, intently, for several days. Maybe weeks.  That’s what helped cause my little slip last week, in which I actually cooked and ATE one of those horrible powdered mac n cheese in a bowl things that I wouldn’t eat even when I wasn’t vegan.  So today, I decided to try to make some mac n cheese using the almond cheese that I tried and really enjoyed.

One of the hardest things about going non dairy is cheese.  I mean, it’s just so good.  Cheese is warm and melty and smooth and divine, salty and yummy and creamy, and there is just no substitute that works well.  Soy cheese is just gross.  It doesn’t melt, it tastes and smells funny; what’s the point?  Most vegans I talk to online love Daiya cheese, but if you read this post you’ll know my feelings on that.  On the whole, I’d rather go without.  Almond cheese was going to be my savior!  It didn’t stink, it melted, it tasted decent; I was so excited.  Until….

For some reason today I inspected the label more closely.  Yup, you guessed it; casein.  My heart broke.

So I bought two varieties of “Follow Your Heart” cheese, which is soy based.  Mozzarella and pepper jack.  I haven’t tried this brand, which the vegans at Vegweb.com all seem to use for most everything.  I’m going to freeze it so I can grate it, then make a mac and cheese with it, see how it comes out.  The problem of course, is that even if it tastes decent, it’s one expensive bowl of mac n cheese.  I’ll let you know how it comes out.

I am now on the search for a vegan milk chocolate.  It doesn’t really seem that difficult, right?   Simply replace the milk with soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc; there’s tons of options out there.  But there  is a dearth of it around.  I found one today, at Rainbow Bridge.  Very expensive, of course; $3.35 for a three ounce bar.  On the other hand, if it’s really good chocolate, I can eat a square a day and be happy.  So with no further ado, my review. (Yes, it’s 10:00 am, what’s your point?)

Sweet Chocolate Dream is a dairy free, gluten free chocolate bar produced by the Hain Corporation, the makers of Rice Dream, Almond Dream, Soy Dream, etc.  Surprisingly, there’s no rice, almond or soy milk in it.  There is soy, in the form of soy flour.  It looks like milk chocolate, it breaks like milk chocolate, and it even tastes like milk chocolate.  It will definitely work for your worst chocolate cravings.  My only criticism, and it’s pretty minor, is that once it’s gone from your mouth, there’s a, well, not an aftertaste, really, it’s more a lack; a lack of the rich bottom notes of chocolate’s aftertaste.  If that makes any sense to anyone.  It really is pretty minor. The creaminess of chocolate, the sweetness, the way it melts in your mouth; it’s pretty dang good. I did need to consume two squares though, to really do this review justice…

Tonight’s dinner is going to be Sloppy Steves, I think.  Murph has baseball practice; I’m hoping that if I take a nap right now, I’ll be able to go.  The beauty of Sloppy Steves is that they need to simmer for so long; I might even try throwing them in the crockpot this time.  That way we won’t be tempted to do the Taco Bell thing again!  It’s so awesome to find something that everyone in the house really loves.

Posts are getting fewer

I have a mental problem.

I am aware that for many people reading this, this is not news.

The particular mental problem (one among many) I address here is the problem of paralysis.  I am easily overwhelmed by the number of tasks I know I need to get done.  I’m unable to prioritize and end up like a deer in the headlights, unable to  move at all.  Sometimes this is due to the Hashimoto’s/CFS; there are days when the mental acuity to remember my own name is in doubt.  Then there are the days when my brain is doing fine, but the pain is such that I don’t want to move out of my lounge chair.  The days that I’m mentally sharp and have the energy and stamina to accomplish much are not common.

My asbestos friend Barbara is fond of making lists.  I make them, then can’t remember where I put them.  So I think I may use a gadget on my sidebar to list and prioritize things. At least I won’t loose it there.  And who knows, maybe it’ll help me blog more regularly.

I’ve continued my experimentation with seitan.  I made a double batch this past weekend, and I think I’m getting better at it.  For one batch, I used this recipe (just the seitan portion), simmering it carefully, and for the other, I used the white seitan recipe from Viva Vegan, and steamed it, as recommended.  Then I breaded steaks from each seitan recipe, using the recipe from Vegan Yum Yum above, and did a Chikn Fried Seitan.  It was awesome!  The entire family loved it.  I made this gravy, which was amazingly good.  I did find that the steamed seitan was not as good as the simmered.  The steaks were way too thick, and perhaps steamed at too high of a temperature.  They were super firm and slightly rubbery.  The simmered ones, however, were tender, juicy and wonderful.  I was very careful about the temperature when I simmered them; kept them at as low a simmer as I could manage, and I think that made a huge difference.  It was one of my favorite meals of recent days, and even the leftover fried steaks were good the next day, toasted in the oven.

I’m planning for Thanksgiving now.  I think there will be about twelve people. I want to do as much ahead of time as I can, to limit my exhaustion that day.  It will be mostly vegan, but I will cook a turkey.  I’m also going to try the seitan roulade from Vegan Yum Yum; it looks amazing, and I think I can make it ahead and freeze it.

Yes, Vegan Yum  Yum is one of my most favorite sites. Her recipes are fabulous, and her pictures are amazing.  I really appreciate how she takes you through step by step, so someone like me,who is really learning to cook vegan, can be successful the first time.  It’s a shame she’s no longer blogging. I hope she returns soon.

So I’m off to find a way to make my list gadget, and work on my broken website, and comb that alpaca fleece that’s been drying on my treadmill (at least it gets used for something!) and cook brunch for my family and plan dinner (anyone have a vegan meatloaf recipe they love?) and work on those socks, oh yeah, and that beaded scarf that needs to be done for the festival, and keep checking Craig’s list for jobs, and tagging finished items, and oh man, pay the property taxes, and shower, I need a shower, and find a place for all the stuff we decided to keep, and reorganize the linen closet, oh yeah and call the Mission to pick up a truckload of crap donations, and crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head cuz there’s too much….

I think this is where I came in…

Because Amy Asked

I wanted to write about my seitan.  My first attempt, about two months ago, was dismal.  It came out hard and rubbery and just not good eats.  So I’ve been afraid to try it again; I don’t often have really awful outcomes in the kitchen. But I steeled my nerves, got a lot of advice (and some new recipes from Amy, THANK YOU!) I am so pleased to report that these batches came out AWESOME!  I made two; an Asian chicken style batch, and a Mexican beef style batch.  The chicken especially is light, fluffy, and even good plain, right out of the pot.  Rather than making “steaks” I made nuggets, and they’re just the way I think they should be.  Tucked them into the freezer (flash frozen on a cookie sheet, so they won’t freeze in a block) so that I can make yummy things later.  These should last me a while!  But the next batch I will try steaming them, as recommended; by then, maybe I’ll find a steamer by then. YUM!

Man, is this confusing.

I know I’ve posted before about possible problems with soy and thyroid implications.  I’ve also heard to stay away from gluten.  Now I’m hearing I should stay away from vegetables from the brassica family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage in all forms, and brussel sprouts, asparagus, spinach, etc.  Other cyanogenic foods include peaches and pears, both of which I love.  Most of the sources I’ve read say it’s ok if they’re cooked, but not raw.   I do enjoy most of them cooked, though I love raw spinach.  This does not leave a lot for me to eat, especially if you throw in the things I’m trying to avoid to adjust pH.

The problem is that I don’t know what the basic problem is.  Thyroid?  Well, my levels are low normal, but they are NORMAL.  The symptoms I have are so non-specific and could be due to hypothyroidism, or to lupus, or to a bunch of other things.  So who knows?  Chinese medicine doesn’t care so much about labels, but about signs and symptoms, and they treat according to those.  So what do I do?

Well, the first thing to go is the pH thing.  I’m told it helps in metabolism and weight loss, but right now that’s all secondary; so I’m not even going to take it into consideration right now.  Getting rid of the pain and fatigue, is paramount, the mind fog and itch is next.  So I think I’m going to set a goal this week of not eating any soy products (though I think tofu is acceptable, since it’s cooked; but for right now I’m going to try anyway), work on getting all my protein from seitan, beans, and grains.  This requires some planning  ahead, which is not of course my strong suit.  But I’ll try.  I’ve already switched mostly to almond milk instead of soy, so that’s one hurdle.  My ice cream is coconut milk, thank goodness, as is my yogurt.  I’ll have to forgo the cheeze products, which won’t be hard since I’m really not wild about them anyway.  I’ll be fine, if my seitan comes out ok.

Now that I’ve purchased some, I have a better idea of what it’s supposed to come out like, so hopefully I’ll do okay.  I bought some at Lassen’s the other day; way expensive, of course; but it did go further than I thought. I used it in a General Tsao’s sauce, and didn’t think there was going to be enough for everyone, so I added some of the stuff I’d made.  Side by side the difference was amazing.  The purchased stuff was light, fluffy; and the texture was much closer to meat.  Mine was hard, rubbery and not really fun to eat.  I think I over cooked it for one thing; but I also didn’t realize how quickly the gluten would firm up when I added liquid, and I just let it sit while I got other ingredients. I hope that if I can correct those things, it will be more palatable.  Now I need to suck it up and go try, and then get ready to go see the Beloved play at Los Corporales tonight!  Whoo hoooooo!

Fried Seitan?

I don’t know if it’s a recommended way of cooking seitan, but tonight, I coated it with cornstarch and fried it.  Served it with General Tao’s Sauce and rice.  Wow.  I put extra red pepper flakes into the sauce tonight, since it was only me eating; it was a bit potent, but GOOD.  I also probably over cooked the seitan, as it didn’t  brown well, so I didn’t know if it was done, especially since it was still a bit frozen in the middle.  It was still delicious.  This was seitan from my first batch, that I found in our freezer today.  I still haven’t made my second batch; maybe tomorrow.  Today was a very lazy day (meaning I only did two loads of laundry and three loads of dishes.)

My nutrition today was also less than stellar; didn’t eat breakfast; had Pad Thai soup (with WAY too much salt!) and english muffins with tofutti cream cheese for lunch.  Dinner, at least, was decent.  I need to shop; I want to make chili but am out of TVP, I’m out of spinach and kale for green drink; out of yogurt for smoothies, even out of cereal for morning.  But I have my chocolate mousse, so life is good.

B –
L- Pad Thai Soup, whole wheat english muffins with tofutti cream cheese
S – green drink, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
D – Seitan with General Tao’s sauce, rice, kale salad.
S – Chocolate Mousse

Kale and Carrot Salad

The Beloved Cooks Vegan!

In a remarkable act of love, my Beloved took one of his favorite meals that he likes to cook, and veganized it.  He calls it “Motch” which he tells me means “Mixture of things” and consists of ground beef, corn, rice a roni, soy sauce and whatever is hanging around.  A great  “use up the leftovers” dish. He usually tops it with shredded cheese.  And it’s good!  Everyone in the family loves it.  But he’s been reluctant to make it since I went vegan, though I tell him this is my commitment, and I don’t want him to have to cook two meals for me; if I can’t eat what he’s cooking, I’ll find something myself.  But he doesn’t like leaving me out, sweet man, so he asked what he could use as a ground beef replacement.  I introduced him to TVP; and it worked!  I haven’t used it that much myself; had made chili with it that everyone loved, so I thought it would work well in motch.  PS; he also makes the most amazing fruit salads, that we had with dinner too!

To go with it, I made a Kale Carrot Salad.  Here’s the recipe!
Kale and Carrot Salad

1  bunch Kale, washed well, stalks trimmed
1 cup shredded carrot
2 Tbl Lime juice
2 Tbl Tahini
1 Tbl Tamari
2 tsp grated ginger root
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha
2 tsp sesame oil
1-2 Tbl sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Blanche kale 1 minute in boiling water; remove to ice bath; drain, pat dry.
2. Place kale and carrot in serving bowl.
3. Blend remaining ingredients well.  Toss with vegetables.
4. Rest at room temperature at LEAST 15 minutes; as long as an hour.
5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or other garnish; serve.

The kale is “cooked” by the acids in the dressing to make it more digestible.  It really needs the rest time to work.  Refrigerated, leftovers will still be good the next day.

Source of recipe: Inspired by http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2721 ; but in looking at the dressing ingredients I thought it needed, well, flavor.  I love ginger and went a little heavy on it; you may want to reduce it by half if you’re not a huge ginger fan.

Makes: 4-6 servings, Preparation time: 1 hour

  • B – rice chex, almond milk, nectarine
  • L – homemade veggie burger on “thins” bun, veggie straws snacks, dried fruit, peach
  • D – Motch, Kale & Carrot Salad, Homemade fruit salad
  • S  – Green drink, Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream

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